Submarine WarfareThe First “World War,” also known as theGreat War, took place after the turn of the century from 1914 to 1918,and was named this because it was the first conflict of global proportions.The war resulted in the loss of military lives and the near destructionof Europe. The massive destruction of the war was largelya result of the use of technology in warfare. The use of technologyin warfare was a result of the industrial revolution at the end ofthe nineteenth century which brought mechanization and mass productionto society. This brought the use of things never used or heard ofinto the war and included airplanes, submarines, and tanks, as well asradio communications, machine guns, and poison gas. The use of submarinesplayed a major part in getting the U.
S. to join the war.With the launching of the Dreadnought,the first battle ship to concentrate all artillery power to massive twelveinch guns and break the twenty knot speed barrier, the worlds navies becameobsolete overnight. The world powers were rushing to build a newclass of war ships to replace the older out dated ones. Germany andEngland soon became entrapped in a naval arms race, with each tryingkeep pace with the others building program. When the War arrivedin 1914, both Germany and England had navies made up of heavily armed capitalships, which were large heavily armed and thickly armored battle shipssuch as Destroyers. The world waited for the clash of Germanys highseas fleet and Englands Grand fleet. The Great War ships onlyhad a few encounters such as in the battle at Jutland and Dogger whilethe underestimated and largely overlooked submarine would play a revolutionarypart.
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In the Wars second month Germanys tinyU-boat fleet made up of only twenty six submarines and ranking fifth insize among the wars combatants demonstrated the tremendous offensive potentialof the “Underseeboot”. On September 5th, 1914 commanding officeron the U-21 Korvettenkapitan Otto Hersing found the British light cruiserPathfinder moving toward his position, submerging the U-boat had only towait till the Pathfinder was within his range. He fired a singletorpedo and hit the Pathfinder accurately and the ship went down in underfour minutes with heavy loss of life. The true eye opener camemerely seventeen days later when the U-9, under the command of Kapitanleutnantotto Weddigen, sank three 10,000 ton British armored cruisers, Aboukir,Houge, and Cressy in the course of only one hour using five torpedoes.
Approximately one thousand four hundred British sailors lost their livesin the attack and the loss of three capital ships was embarrassing to theBritish Navy. Naval establishments around the world sat up and tooknotice at that point. The sinking of the British cruisers hadproven the submarines worth to the military as an offensive weapon butits use against merchant shipping brought the weapon its own place in themilitary world. On February 4, 1915 angered by the British blockadeof the North Sea, Germany declared the water around the British Isles awar zone. Germany now would sink all merchant vessels foundin those waters without warning. This was the first time the worldhad seen a form of unrestricted submarine warfare on merchant shipping.
As result England was receiving no goods from the outside world whichwas very nearly starving out England because of the unmerciful nature ofthe German attacks.The United States, long a neutral spectatorto the war, found herself slowly being drawn into the conflict. Beforeher entry in 1917 a warning was sent by Germany that American waters wouldnot be immune to the U-boat threat. Germans sent two voyages to thetown of Newport, Rhode Island in that same year. After the Unitedstates entered the war on April 6, 1917 they waited for a reappearanceof the submarines for months before seeing another U-boat. When theyfinally did it was for the sinking of the American ship S.S.
Carolina.The S.S. Carolina was a five thousandton passenger liner transporting over 217 passengers from San Juan, PuertoRico, to New York City.
When a message was intercepted by a wirelessoperator that the Isabel B. Wiley was sunk by a German U-boat, nomore that fifteen miles away, the message was instantly sent to the S.S.Carolina. Captain Barbour then put his ship in a defensive zig zagpattern to make the ship a less easy target but it was too late. The U-boathad already fired shells in to the ships wake disabling it.
The captain fearing for the safety of his passengers then loaded the lifeboats and as soon as they were clear of the ship witnessed the U-boat fireshell upon shell till the S.S. Carolina rolled over and sank.
Nolives were lost in the sinking but later life boat number five was overturnedand 13 people were drowned. By doing this the Germansnot only insured American involvement in the war but they were also takingtheir own losses.In 1915 Germany was also losing heavilyto British submarines and the most successful of these attacks was theSubmarine Massacre of 1915. October 10-11, 1915 the Britishsubmarine E19, in the command of Lieutenant-Commander Francis Cromie waspatrolling south of the Swedish island Oland when they spotted a Germancargo steamer and the crew was made to abandon the steamer so the Britishcrew could sink it, but they were unable to sink it due to rough weather.The following morning E19 hailed the 75m long German steamer S/S WaltherLeonhardt loaded with iron ore from Sweden. The crew was orderedto enter the life boat and the ship was detonated with explosivein the hull. Later that morning another ship loaded with ore fromSweden, that had witnessed the previous sinking was spotted but refusedto stop being chased by the submarine at surface speed with deckguns firing till it ran aground near the coast.
The sub crew thenplaced dynamite in the hold but failed to sink her. About 1pm another ship, this time a 100m German ship called the S/S Gutrune, wasstopped and after the crew was safely in the life boat was sunk usingvalves and pumps on the hold.Submarine warfare played a major partin World War 1 and was just as important as all the trench battles on theEastern Front. In most cases gained much more victories andlosses in a much quicker fashion than the trenches. The battles inthe trenches were long and resulted in much more loss of life while thenaval battles in most cases helped bring about the end of the war.
They played the part of starving out Germany and bringing a haltto the war just by barricading trade. If not for the use of submarinesin the war it would have been a much longer war and would probably haveresulted in complete destruction of Europe. Also if Germans had notused the submarine when it did Americas entering in the war wouldhave been prolonged and the allies would probably have lost.